Friday, July 14, 2006

You Can Make A Difference

Amnesty International, a Nobel Prize-winning organization, depends on people like you and I to help speak out on human rights abuses around the world . Right now, Amnesty is working on a number of urgent issues that I think you will be interested in. If an issue touches your heart please take a moment to send an email. It doesn't cost anything but can make a world of difference.

Pamela Lyn


Voice Your Concern Over The Escalating Violence In the Middle East

As the current crisis in Israel and the Occupied Territories continues to escalate, the respect and observance of international law has declined dramatically. Israeli armed forces have targeted civilian infrastructure leaving thousands without electricity and water. Palestinian armed groups have taken one soldier hostage and killed one settler in the West Bank. This follows a period where Israeli air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians including many civilians and Palestinians armed groups launched hundreds of “qassam” rockets injuring several Israelis. Please take action now and send a letter to all sides asking them to stop the violence.

Amnesty International believes that the gravity of the current situation requires a comprehensive approach whereby all aspects of the current crisis, including the factors contributing to it, are investigated. The aims should be to establish the respective responsibilities of all concerned parties and to identify concrete steps that should be taken by each party in order to ensure the protection of the civilian population and to provide effective and accessible remedies for the abuses the parties have committed.

After a year that saw a marked reduction in the level of killings by both sides, the situation has sharply deteriorated in recent months. Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed some 150 Palestinians -- many of them unarmed -- including more than 25 children. To date none of these cases have been adequately investigated.

In recent months the Israeli army has launched thousands of artillery shells and scores of air strikes against densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip, killing dozens of Palestinians, including several women and children, and injuring many others.

In the same period Palestinian armed groups have launched indiscriminately hundreds of 'qassam' rockets at Israel, injuring several civilians.

Most recently, following the abduction by Palestinian armed groups of an Israeli soldier who continues to be held hostage,and the killing of an Israeli settler in the West Bank Israeli forces have launched repeated and deliberate air strikes against electricity and water supply systems, roads and other civilian infrastructure, educational and other public institutions and private property in the Gaza Strip. The destruction is having serious humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian population, whose situation had already worsened due to the impact of the sanctions imposed after Hamas won a majority in January's Palestinian elections.

Both sides claim that their respective attacks are in response to attacks by the other side, disregarding the prohibition under international law of reprisals, the deliberate targeting of civilians, and disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks that endanger civilian lives. All parties to the conflict must ensure the effective protection of the human rights of all -- Palestinians and Israelis -- caught up in the current crisis.

I just sent emails via the Amnesty Intl. website to all groups responsible for the escalating Middle East violence, urging them to stop endangering civilian lives. Please, will you take just 2 seconds to do the same? plk

Demand That Criminals Be Brought To Justice In Darfur
Did you know that despite international outrage over the human rights crisis in Darfur, not a single person responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity has been brought to justice? I just took action and sent two crucial messages to US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and my Congressmen asking that support strengthening the U.S. government’s relationship with the ICC, and keep the pressure on Sudan's government to cooperate with the ICC investigation. Please join me and Amnesty in doing the same! plk

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the best hope for justice in Sudan

The conflict in Darfur, Sudan, has led to some of the worst human rights abuses imaginable: systematic and widespread murder, rape, abduction and displacement. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed. Over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced. Despite international outrage over the human rights crisis in Darfur, not a single perpetrator of war crimes or crimes against humanity has been brought to justice.

In March of last year, however, the U.N. Security Council passed a historic resolution calling for the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. The ICC is the world’s first, permanent, international judicial body capable of prosecuting individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

Amnesty International believes that justice is an essential component to building a lasting peace in Darfur. The ICC will help to establish a public, irrefutable record of the truth; serve as a deterrent to the commission of future crimes; promote reparations for victims; serve as a catalyst for reform in Sudan's own courts; and assign individual -- not group -- responsibility, thus helping to break the cycle of violence.

The U.S. Government's policy toward the ICC has taken a number of twists and turns since the international community first began working to create the Court. The U.S. Administration under President Clinton was an active participant in drafting the ICC treaty, and it was President Clinton who signed the treaty in December 2000. However, in 2002, the Bush Administration withdrew the United States' signature and subsequently launched a campaign to undermine the Court-- portraying the ICC as a threat to U.S. service members, and pressuring other countries to sign agreements not to cooperate with the Court.

This hostile stance began to change in 2005, when the U.S. decided not to vote against the U.N. Security Council's resolution referring the crimes committed in Darfur to the ICC. Administration officials have since stated that the U.S. stands ready to assist the ICC with its work in Darfur, signaling what could be the beginning of a remarkable shift in U.S. policy toward the Court. Now is a critical time to let the Bush Administration and Congress know that U.S. citizens support the ICC and its work in Darfur.

Learn more about the ICC. »

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Stop ruthless arms brokers who fuel deadly conflicts.

The global misuse of arms has reached a crisis point. Ruthless arms brokers continue to transfer weapons to abusive armed groups and oppressive regimes with little international intervention. You can help stop these merchants of death.

Merchants of Death
Ruthless arms brokers have been at the center of many of the most disturbing arms deals, including weapons transfers to abusive armed groups and countries under U.N. arms embargoes. For example, the most notorious arms broker, Victor Bout, continues to be linked to illicit arms transfers to armed groups fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These armed groups wreak havoc on innocent civilians. Yet, many arms brokers, including Bout, remain free and unhindered, and continue to traffic arms to human rights abusers. Urge your Member of Congress to press the Bush Administration to support a strong global agreement on arms brokering to better enforce U.S. law and halt this global threat to human rights.


In the last decade and a half, ruthless arms brokers have been at the center of many of the most disturbing arms deals, including weapons transfers to abusive armed groups and countries under U.N. arms embargoes. In a typical example, arms brokers purportedly organized a shipment of 3,117 surplus assault rifles from Nicaragua to Panama, but in fact were diverted to Colombia’s paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). At the time, the AUC was accused of <strong>killing thousands of civilians and was on the U.S. Department of State list of terrorist organizations</strong>. Yet, many arms brokers, including those involved in the above and other illegal deals, remain free and unhindered, and continue to traffic arms to human rights abusers.

Non-existent or Weak Laws
Despite U.S. and international efforts to stem similarly devastating deals, many governments have non-existent or weak laws or enforcement on arms brokering. For example, Irish law does not control arms brokers who arrange weapons supplies from foreign countries. This weakness made it especially difficult for the Irish government to prosecute an arms broker in 2004 that was reportedly involved in negotiations to supply 50 T72 tanks from Ukraine to the Sudanese military. In January 2004, the EU strengthened its arms embargo on Sudan out of concern for its ongoing civil war. In addition, some countries such as Russia continue to allow well-known arms traffickers such as Victor Bout to remain free. Bout has been implicated in violating or contributing to violate several U.N. arms embargoes in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Addressing the threat of these globetrotting brokers, the U.S. government adopted a tough law on arms brokering in 1996. The U.S. law, for example, covers a wide range of brokering activities, including transporting and financing. It requires arms brokers to both register as an arms broker and to apply for a license for each brokering activity. It also regulates arms brokering activity of any U.S. person engaging in activities at home or abroad, and also of foreigners located in the United States or otherwise subject to U.S. jurisdiction who undertake brokering.

This law, however, will not be fully effective until other governments adopt similar laws. The major problem lies in the U.S. government’s inability to effectively investigate and extradite individuals in foreign countries that violate U.S. law. Since the adoption of the law, the United States has only prosecuted five individuals under the U.S. arms brokering law. In an example of the importance of an arms brokering law, the U.S. government used this law among others to prosecute a British citizen, Hemant Lakhani, for attempting to sell shoulder-fired missiles in the United States to a group Lakhani thought would use the missiles to shoot down a commercial airliner. In September 2005, U.S. courts sentenced Lakhani to 47 years in prison for his illegal arms brokering activities among other items.

Strong Global Agreement on Arms Brokering
In order to better enforce U.S. law and to elevate other government’s abilities to stem illicit brokering activities, Amnesty International supports a strong global agreement on arms brokering. Following the lead of U.S. law, this agreement must, among other items, require that:

- all arms brokers operating in a country’s territory be registered and licensed for each arms transaction.

- It should require governments to regulate and control brokering activities –including transporting and financing – outside their territory by its citizens or its residents.

- An international agreement must also establish when governments should prevent arms brokering activity, such as transfers to governments and groups with consistent records of gross human rights violations.

Such an agreement, adopted and strictly enforced, could go a long way to stemming gross human rights abuses fueled by ruthless arms brokers.

Take action on this issue.


EPA, Clean-Up Katrina's Toxic Debris!

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 22 million tons of toxic sediment contamination and mold present serious health concerns for residents of New Orleans. Urge the EPA to fulfill its responsibility to ensure that News Orleans is safe and the public is protected from harmful environmental conditions created by the hurricane and subsequent flooding. Testing shows that the soil is contaminated with pesticides, arsenic, lead, industrial waste, and other cancer-causing chemicals. Without decisive action by the EPA, people will be at risk for serious and chronic health problems. Particular attention must be paid to low-income communities and communities of color, which are often situated near toxic industrial sites, and therefore suffer the greatest contamination.

Environmental groups are sounding the alarm about the toxic chemical contamination in sediment and soil left in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The hurricanes created 22 million tons of toxic debris, now dispersed throughout Greater New Orleans. Insufficient action has been taken to clean up the toxic contamination. No decision has been made as to whether there will ever be a coordinated government effort to rid storm ravaged communities of toxic substances.

Testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and other independent organizations reveal that the sediment contains dangerous chemicals such as lead, arsenic, petroleum products, and other industrial contaminants. These toxic substances can cause significant health ailments like cancer and serious neurological disease. In many locations, toxic concentrations are far higher than federal and state agencies allow. The EPA and NRDC also found “hot spot” contamination near old industrial sites that have been outlawed for decades. Still, officials have declared Greater New Orleans safe for residents. Environmental groups are concerned that the EPA has based its safety evaluations on short-term exposure measurements. Long-term exposure of these dangerous chemicals is linked to significant health problems. Additionally, the EPA has not tested private yards and houses where people will spend large amounts of time. Learn more about the NRDC study.


There are so many important issues that need to be addressed. Learn more about them at : . Please show the world that you care. plk

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